Two Indians, who were among the 363 brought back from Abu Dhabi and Dubai via special Air India flights that landed in Kerala on Thursday, have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said this evening during his daily press briefings.
One of the infected individuals is being treated in Kozhikode, while the second is receiving treatment in Kochi, the government added.
The new cases have taken the number of coronavirus cases in the state to 505, with 17 people now in hospital. Four deaths have been linked to the virus and 484 have been successfully treated and discharged from hospitals.
On Friday Mr Vijayan said that while the state had been successful in containing the COVID-19 virus so far, it must ready itself for a possible third wave of infection linked to the arrival of repatriated Indians, of whom hundreds are expected to touch down in the southern state.
In addition to Air India flights from the Gulf region, 698 Indians are being transported from the Maldives to Kochi via Indian Navy warship INS Jalashwa.
Thousands more are expected to return to the country over the next few days, with Air India scheduled to operate 64 paid flights between May 7 and May 13, and the Indian Navy conducting similar exercises on water.
The state government has demanded that everyone being brought back must be tested for COVID-19 before repatriation and go through multi-level screenings, including thermal checks, on arrival in India.
Those that land in Kerala will also be required to go through a seven-day government quarantine on arrival and take a RT-PCR test (a more accurate test that must return negative) before spending a further seven days in home quarantine.
Exceptions have been made for pregnant women and senior citizens, who will be allowed to undergo the 14-day quarantine period at home.
Kerala, which reported the first three novel coronavirus cases in India, has done well to contain the infectious virus and prevent its spread so far.
This morning Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac tweeted a line graph that showed the number of active COVID-19 cases declining steeply from April 9.
The state’s efforts to battle the novel coronavirus include an extended 28-day quarantine period for suspected cases; nationwide this period is 14 days.
Also, last month, inspired by COVID-19 efforts in South Korea, Kerala became the first state to use walk-in kiosks for mass collection of samples.
Across India the number of coronavirus cases is inching towards 60,000, with nearly 2,000 deaths linked to the virus.
The country is in the middle of a prolonged lockdown – including banning of non-essential rail, flight and road traffic – that is scheduled to end on May 17.